Our 2009 Public Schools Old Boys Golf Association pilgrimage began with the spring qualifying event at Royal Ashdown Forest Golf club in East Sussex.
The course, famous for having no bunkers, is ranked in the Top 100 courses in the British Isles so always provides a stern test for (some of!) Millfield’s most gritty old boy golfers!
On Sunday 10th May our hand-picked team of low handicap golfers gathered to ensure that we were one of 8 teams to qualify from the 21 schools assembled, with the added incentive that the top placed school on the day would be seeded and receive a bye into the second round of the competition proper to be held in Norfolk in late September.
Having tamed the practice ground and the tricky sloping putting green plus a few pints of the black stuff, our first stableford scratch foursomes pair of Chris Taee (1981-1986; Day) and JJ Moore (1998-2000; Etonhurst) were first to tee-off and bagged a hard fought 23 points. Our second pair of Jon Greener (1987-1989; Kingweston) and Gavin Bradbury (1981-1983; Kingweston) rallied well to secure 27 points with a second best score on the day of 34 points coming courtesy of some impressive putting from our final pairing of Doug Morss (1987-1989; Kingweston) and Ed Matthews (1981-1986 Joan’s Kitchen). Our combined score of 84 points was good enough for 3rd qualifying spot, so the next day the accommodation was booked and the dates put in the diary for the Finals at Brancaster and Hunstanton in Norfolk, later in September.
The finals draw was a classic case of good news/bad news with a first round bye countered against drawing recent winners KCS Wimbledon School. With a number of the regular team away on needlework, macramé and babysitting duties our finals team was drawn from all corners of the world including Dorset, Isle of Man and Dubai. Our Norfolk assault started with a practice round on Thursday 24th September at Brancaster where we were due to tee off at 11am the next day.
After a solid yet unspectacular trip to the Orange Tree in nearby Thornham that evening ,we awoke the next day to blue sky and a gentle zephyr and headed off to Royal West Norfolk Golf Club (locally known as Brancaster). In typical quirky Millfield fashion Steve Rumball (1973-1978; Kingweston) set the scene for the day’s events by not only losing his practice ball whilst trying to chip onto the tee from 15 yards, but also double hitting the chip at the same time whilst our opponents looked on! First off were JJ Moore and Matthew Condren who despite losing the first three holes recovered to record a great 2/1 victory against two scratch golfers. Despite some solid golf and ‘Istonic’ Vodka and Cranberry shots, Gavin Bradbury and Andy Russell’s (1995-2000; Kingweston) were unable to overcome their opponents who were under par when they won. With the match coming down to the final pairing, things were looking good as Stephen Rumball and Giles Legge (1983-1988: St Anne’s) played some fantastic golf to be 2up after 11 holes. With the wind freshening slightly, KCS Wimbledon rallied with birdies and holed putts against our solid pars to reach the 16th tee 2 up. Grinding out an impressive par on the difficult 16th hole, reduced the deficit to one down with two to play. With both teams having found the fairway on 17, KCS then pushed their approach shot into a nasty lie just off the green with Giles Legge responding well with a solid 7 iron from 160 yards into 20 feet. Things were looking good until one of the rules committee swerved their buggy away from the path to avoid bringing up dust only to move our opponents ball nearer to the hole and into a much better lie! With a good up and down from KCS to secure their par, Steve Rumball left Giles with a do or die par putt which unfortunately slid by to hand the match to KCS. A great effort from our third pair who played great golf to stay with their experienced scratch golfer opponents for so long.
After toasting our opponents, we were somewhat heartened to hear from the KCS Wimbledon team statistician, that they had the best Grafton Morrish record in the last 10 years which was further re-enforced with KCS reaching the finals only to lose narrowly to George Herriot’s school. All in all a great few days, topped off with a meal at the Hoste Arms in Burnham Market – highly recommended if you are ever in the area! Although nearly but not quite springs to mind, if you are a low handicap golfer (2 or less) and would like to play competitive old boys golf for Millfield in the Grafton Morrish, please email firstname.lastname@example.org as it would be great to get some new blood to ensure that we get our name back on the trophy after a gap of over 25 years!